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Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Tuesday May 3, 2011

Why not school choice in Kansas? WhyNotKansas.com is a website that holds information about the benefits of giving families the freedom of school choice. The site is new this week, and is a project of Kansas Policy Institute and Foundation for Educational Choice. Innovation in school choice programs is common in many states. Kansas, however, still grants the education bureaucracy a monopoly on the use of public dollars in education.

Economics in one lesson this Monday. On Monday (May 9), four videos based on Henry Hazlitt’s classic work Economics in One Lesson will be shown in Wichita. The four topics included in Monday’s presentation will be The Curse of Machinery, Disbanding Troops & Bureaucrats, Who’s “Protected” by Tariffs?, and “Parity” Prices. The event is Monday (May 9) at 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at the Lionel D. Alford Library located at 3447 S. Meridian in Wichita. The library is just north of the I-235 exit on Meridian. The event’s sponsor is Americans for Prosperity, Kansas. For more information on this event contact John Todd at john@johntodd.net or 316-312-7335, or Susan Estes, AFP Field Director at sestes@afphq.org or 316-681-4415.

Sowell on government intervention. Must government intervene to fix the economy? Politicians face tremendous pressure to be seen as active, writes Thomas Sowell: “It is not politically possible for either the Federal Reserve or the Obama administration to leave the economy alone and let it recover on its own. Both are under pressure to ‘do something.’ If one thing doesn’t work, then they have to try something else. And if that doesn’t work, they have to come up with yet another gimmick. … The idea that the federal government has to step in whenever there is a downturn in the economy is an economic dogma that ignores much of the history of the United States. During the first hundred years of the United States, there was no Federal Reserve. During the first one hundred and fifty years, the federal government did not engage in massive intervention when the economy turned down. No economic downturn in all those years ever lasted as long as the Great Depression of the 1930s, when both the Federal Reserve and the administrations of Hoover and of FDR intervened. The myth that has come down to us says that the government had to intervene when there was mass unemployment in the 1930s. But the hard data show that there was no mass unemployment until after the federal government intervened. Yet, once having intervened, it was politically impossible to stop and let the economy recover on its own. That was the fundamental problem then — and now.”

Salina’s first TIF district. The Salina Journal looks at issues surrounding that city’s first TIF district. Of note: “TIF districts are prevalent in other cities and states. For instance, Manhattan uses TIF districts so much that it no longer considers it an incentive, [Dennis Lauver, president and CEO of the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce] said.”

Charles on energy and stuff. “We are making it cool to use less stuff,” says Charles, Prince of Wales, KG KT GCB OM AK QSO CD SOM PC AdC(P) FRS. Irish documentary film makers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer have a new short film that looks at the activities of England’s Prince Charles as compared to what he wants the rest of us to do. Write the documentariasts: “Prince Charles is the latest to be exposed as an eco-Hypocrite in our short film series. The Prince is coming to the US this week to speak at Georgetown University about ‘sustainability’ so we decided to see just how he lives up to his own standards. We’ve made a short film that exposes just how hypocritical the Prince is as he lives a fabulous, luxury life whilst lecturing the rest of us that we have to live with less. Prince Charles — Hypocrite exposes the double standard that is at the center of so much environmentalism. … He is coming to the US to lecture on sustainability and tells people they must live with less in order to save the planet but tells us we must end our ‘age of convenience.’ He wants to make our lives more inconvenient to save the planet from alleged climate change but the Prince refuses to make any changes in his own life.”

Government and entrepreneurship. From an essay by Dane Stangler titled Entrepreneurship and Government, contained in Back on the Road to Serfdom: The Resurgence of Statism, edited by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.: “The third way in which the state can intrude on entrepreneurship is through distorted incentives: either with misguided regulations or unintended consequences, the government could end up creating the wrong incentives for entrepreneurs. Will Baumol discussed such institutional incentives in a famous article in which he argued. ‘How the entrepreneur acts at a given time and place depends heavily on the rules of the game — the reward structure in the economy — that happen to prevail.’ Problems arise when these rules of the game encourage ‘unproductive’ entrepreneurial behavior. The principal example of such unproductive behavior is rent seeking, which occurs when companies pursue a bigger slick of economic activity by means other than market competition — that is, when they graduate to seeking favors from Washington rather than seeking a competitive edge by means of innovation. A company’s entreaties to government for protective action often indicate a returns curve that has already turned negative.” … While the article mentions “favors from Washington,” we can easily substitute state capitols, city halls, or county courthouses. For example, Wichita’s economic development policy is firmly rooted in the belief that the city can direct entrepreneurial activity with no wrong incentives or ill consequences. Listening to the recent summit of aviation industry leaders with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, it is apparent that this industry thrives on, and will continue to expect, large doses of incentives and special treatment and favor from government. But is the aviation industry best for the future of Wichita? While government leaders across Kansas pledge not to lose most important industry, we know it can happen (see Detroit). We have to be careful to make sure that our government policies don’t hasten this loss.

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